Steel Guru – Toxic ships pending illegal export from Kuwait

25 March 2010 – The Basel Action Network, a toxic trade watchdog and member organization of the NGO Platform on Ship breaking, warned the Government of Kuwait on March 9th 2009 that 3 Kuwaiti flagged ships called the Al Awdah, Al Tahreer and Al Shuhadaa would soon be exported from Kuwait destined for the ship breaking beaches of South Asia in contravention of the United Nations Basel Convention. Industry insiders now report these ships have been sold for scrap to known cash buyers for a total USD 35 million.

The Government of Kuwait has taken no apparent action to block this sale and the impending illegal export of these vessels; in so doing, they neglect to uphold their commitment to the Basel Convention. The government’s inaction may be attributed to a conflict of interest, as the Government of Kuwait is the beneficiary of this sale. These vessels were owned and sold by Kuwait Oil Tanker Co SAK, a subsidiary of the government owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.

These ships are suspected of containing high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, asbestos and other hazardous wastes within their construction. Exporting these vessels for scrapping in South Asia would be a violation of the Basel Convention which controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste, such as PCBs and asbestos and their disposal.

Colby Self of the Basel Action Network said that “BAN calls on the Government of Kuwait to take immediate and corrective action to uphold the principles of the Basel Convention, for which they are obliged to uphold. The vessels must be sampled for PCBs and asbestos and fully remediate prior to leaving Kuwait.”

According to BAN’s sources, United Eastern Trading Company in collaboration with Dubai Trading Agency, the same cash buyers who purchased and illegally scrapped two US vessels in India in January has also purchased the Al Awdah, Al Tahreer and Al Shuhadaa. The vessels are currently anchored at Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait waters but are expected to depart soon.